Vol. 9, No. 5 – December 9 – December 22, 2015 – Opinion/Editorial

•  These will be my last words (promise) regarding the proposed Regent hillside development until further action is taken – which won’t happen for a long time.

As you know, I support this project and have stated my reasons why in previous issues, so I won’t go into that further. It will be exciting and interesting to see the plans change and develop as they are re-submitted  in the many required rounds of approvals. Those still opposed to it will certainly have many opportunities to express their concerns. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opinions also.

The City Council has voted 4-1 (Monahan being the no vote) to approve the pre-screen which permits the developer to submit a formal application. This changes the zoning from HPR-4 to Neighborhood low and permits the developer to delay the Capital Improvement Deficiency Study until the CEQA review stage.

I want to congratulate the City Council on taking what I consider to be the correct action and approving the prescreen process. I would assume that the 2 members who could not vote would have also voted yes so the final vote would have been 6-1 in favor.

Kudos to Community Development Director Jeff Lambert and his planning staff for their excellent research and presentation to both the Planning Commission and the City Council regarding the project. And to Lambert for carefully explaining exactly what the prescreen approval meant. I still think that many people still do not understand that part of the process.

Also, the same goes for Regent Properties for their very comprehensive and thorough presentations. They, and their consultants, were at the meeting to answer the many questions and concerns expressed by the public speakers.

For the most part, in my opinion, the City Council members asked excellent questions that will guide them in future hearings and decisions regarding the development. They expressed many concerns that will help Regent revise their plans to obtain all of the necessary approvals.

Mayor Heitmann did an excellent job of running the meeting and those for, and against, the project acted in a very mature and respectful manner.

Those opposing this development didn’t achieve their goal of stopping the process, even though somehow they are claiming a partial victory because the “Council made clear that it was not giving tacit approval to the existing plan.” Nothing has been approved except a concept.

Some of the critics suggested that Regent should build affordable housing or contribute to a specific affordable housing development. Regent has proposed to make an undetermined but substantial in-lieu donation, but not build affordable housing at the site. Affordable housing certainly does not belong on this site.

In his summary to his “constituents,” Robert Louis Chianese, one of the leaders of the opposition group wrote the following. “I consider the vote last night as a preliminary victory. The HMP still rules and Regent has to be wondering what costs they will incur in order to meet both the Council’s new requirements and the future EIR findings. I am now willing to say publicly what I have been saying to our group: that Regent will discover the costs of mitigating all this and re-designing to meet the HMP regulations will be too much and will walk away. We have to stay diligent while that light dawns on them. They could then come back with a new fully HMP-compliant project.”

I consider this statement to be almost un-American and very-very disturbing. This is not the way you win your battle – not by making it too expensive for Regent to continue but by presenting your case and hoping that is what will stop a project. And the HMP does not rule, they are suggested guidelines and not a set code of rules. It is at the discretion of planning and City Council to decide if a project meets the intent of the HMP.

Indeed, Regent will need to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars, thousands of hours of work and several years to hopefully be able to sell the houses when they are completed. I certainly hope that this does not deter them from accomplishing their goals.

•  Once again, Ventura is considering a sales tax increase to be placed on the November, 2016 ballot. Our current sales tax rate is 7.5%. The City Council voted to spend a maximum of $80,000 to launch a campaign to inform-educate Venturans in order to persuade them to vote yes on this measure.

A private survey recently conducted shows that a majority of Venturans approve of an increase if it will improve essential city services. Only a simple majority is required to pass this sales tax increase. Depending on the amount of increase (1/2% or 1%), it could create an estimated $10-$20 million in much needed additional tax dollars.

As long as we remain a “no-growth city” we will need to find other sources of income to maintain essential services, and this is the easiest way to accomplish this.

•  I think Ben Carlson ran for president so he could sell his book – people are waiting in line at his book signings.

Trump is running, it seems, because he thinks that this is a reality show. Trump is a funny guy and if I wanted a clown for president (maybe they all are), I would certainly vote for him.

I think he is being paid by the manufacturers of buses. Trump wants to round up 11,500,000 illegals and send them back to where they came from. If we assume that means “south of the border” and each bus holds 50 occupants, it would take 230,000 bus loads. So, if he is elected, USA bus companies would be thrilled.

 

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